Thu, Aug. 17, 2006

Dance into Conflict

TS - Washington.   On August 11, 2006, the Karlsruhe Court of Appeals decided in the matter 14 U 45/04 that a physician's duty to treat medical records confidentially protects patient identities. The case is also discussed at Recht & Alltag.

The plaintiff participated in a rehabilitation program when one of her co-patients injured her during group dancing therapy. She wanted to sue him for damages but did not know his full name. Therefore, she sought from the the hospital the disclosure of the patient's identity. The appellate court affirmed the lower court's denial of the plaintiff's right to such disclosure.

§203(1)(1) of the German criminal code, Strafgesetzbuch, prevents a physician from disclosing any information received in one's professional capacity. The court held that this section also protects a patient's name and identity. As for the conflicting interests of the two dancers, the physician has to balance them. In this case, the potential defendant's interest in his information being treated confidentially takes precedence over the physician's secondary obligation to help the plaintiff sue another patient for damages.

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